President’s Note for July 2023

 In Japan Society News
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One of my first encounters with Japan Society was as an attendee at the Innovation Awards program more than 10 years ago. At the time, I was advising Japanese companies about how to do business in the US marketplace. I found the Innovation Awards to be a great blend of Silicon Valley innovation and Japanese entrepreneurship; it was a place where I could learn about dynamic and innovative Japanese companies, and also meet people who shared my interest and background in entrepreneurial business and my passion for Japan.

© Mark Shigenaga (2022)

This year marks JSNC’s 13th Annual Innovation Awards program. On July 20th, we will recognize a number of highly innovative companies, including our two Sunbridge Emerging Leader award winners, Treasure Data, a customer data platform that allows companies to pull together and analyze lots of customer data, and Figma, a collaborative web-based design tool for managing UI and UX design. These two companies follow in the footsteps of our past Awardees, including the likes of Tesla Motors and San Bio, our first two awardees back in 2011, well before either company was a household name.

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It has been particularly interesting to see how our past Award winners have evolved over time – our “portfolio” of Award winners has done exceptionally well. In addition to Tesla and San Bio which are both successful public companies, many others continue to flourish, including Euglena, Mujin and iSpace, who were all featured speakers at our program with the American Chamber of Commerce in Tokyo last month, and notable winners such as Zoom, JiNs, Dropbox, Line, Preferred Networks, Cloudian, Astroscale and many others. 

© Mark Shigenaga (2022)

This year we will also be recognizing five early-stage Japanese companies with our Technology Showcase awards – an award designed to draw attention to highly innovative early-stage companies that show the potential to have a ground-breaking impact on their industry. 

This year, our Showcase awardees include: 

  • Elephantech – uses metal inkjet printing technology to produce printed circuit boards (PCBs) in an environmentally friendly manner 
  • Final Aim – a Web3 company that uses smart contracts to improve management of industrial design and manufacturing
  • LegalOn – AI-based contract review software
  • RECOTECH – tools to allow companies to build less costly and more environmentally friendly supply chains 
  • Skydrive – builds autonomous flying cars

Beyond this year’s Awardees, we have some excellent presentations planned, including a fireside chat with Akira Amari, one of Japan’s leading politicians. Mr. Amari is a former cabinet minister who headed the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), and a current member of the Japanese Diet. He is also an enthusiastic backer of green energy initiatives. We are also excited to have a presentation from Mr. Shane Gu, a leader at the Japan operations of OpenAI, which has attracted worldwide attention with its launch of ChatGPT, the natural language AI engine.

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This year’s program promises to be a great event. In addition to our speakers and the innovative companies that will be receiving awards, it is also a great place to connect with people from technology, investment, government and academic worlds, all of whom share a strong interest in entrepreneurship and innovation, and have a connection with Japan. Please register online as soon as possible, and kindly help us spread the word about this great program. I hope to see you there!

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